Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Interprofessional Education: A Dietetic Intern’s Perspective


As part of my dietetic internship, I had the opportunity to participate in an IPE placement during one of my rotations. From this experience, my understanding of IPE is that it is the proposed method for improving the healthcare system in order to provide better patient care. Specifically, I learned that active learning of the roles of health professionals is very effective and resulted in united communication on our team which directly impacted patient care.

The IPE team I was part of was made up of one student each from dietetics, social work, nursing, psychology, and occupational therapy. We met weekly for five weeks with co-facilitators. We discussed our job responsibilities, our interactions within the team, how our roles overlapped and differed, and how we were involved in patient care. We actively learned together rather than through passive observation. It surprised me, for example, that a social work student was not aware of differences between occupational therapy and dietetics. I wondered, wasn’t the difference obvious? We had candid conversations about who does what, when and why. These conversations were stimulating and effective because I knew that I was developing a solid grasp of each member’s scope of practice and that they were developing a solid grasp of mine.

One of our objectives was to discuss a particular patient and work together as a team to discuss his or her care. In our case study, the question arose, ‘is this patient palliative?’ We talked about it with our mentors and learned that palliative care was a confusing issue for everyone. We learned that knowing whether the patient is palliative directly affects each member’s short and long term care plan. The IPE project led us to this level of communication and engaged the team in a valuable discussion about how they each defined palliative care and how they dealt with it both individually and as a team.

Some may argue that understanding the roles of each team member should be intrinsic or that we all eventually learn the roles of the team members just by being on the team. The fact remains that from our IPE placement, the active learning aspect was effective in enhancing our understanding of the roles of team members that resulted in the discovery of team-wide issues affecting patient care. It gave me an appreciation that a new approach towards intern training and education in the health professions overall may be beneficial.

Dietetic internship involves ten months of time, effort and energy to understand the scope of a dietitian’s practice. I believe that interprofessional education can be a beneficial part of internship that complements our training. I trust that the development of interprofessional education within the healthcare setting will help to serve many patients and families and I’m excited to be part of it!

Contact

Teresa Maiorano, Dietetic intern
The Hospital for Sick Children
Toronto, ON
E: teresa.maiorano@sickkids.ca

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